How to Get a Green Card Through Employment

There are two primary ways regarding how to get a green card.  This post will cover how to get a green card through employment.  This is normally more difficult than if you have US family to sponsor you but in many cases this way can be much faster. Employment based immigration covers options for US employers to sponsor workers, for foreign nationals to immigrate based on making substantial investments, and through certain self sponsored options that neither require a US employer nor any investment.  US immigration laws split up the employment based green card categories into five preference categories.  Unlike the family based preference categories, the preference level does not always match of with visa processing times.

Employer Sponsorship RequiredInvestment BasedSelf-Sponsored – No Employer Sponsorship or Investment Required
EB4
EB1BEB5EB1A
EB1CNIW
EB2
EB3

How to Get a Green Card Through the EB1 Category

The first preference category is called EB1 and that is split into three separate sub categories:  EB1A, EB1B, and EB1C.  The EB1A category covers aliens of extraordinary ability and is a self sponsored category.  This means that if you meet the requirements then you can self sponsor your green card.  Foreign nationals who have high achievements in nearly any field can petition through this category.  The EB1B category covers outstanding researchers.  The achievement requirements are lower, though still substantial, but requires employer sponsorship.  Employers can be Universities, colleges, and even private employers.  The EB1C category covers intracompany transferees.  If you were transferred to work for a US employer in L1A visa status then you may qualify for this category.  If you fall into the EB1 preference category then the time it takes to get your green card is generally very fast.  Employment based petitions are generally made with Form I-140.  This is the form where the applicant must establish that they are eligible for the classification they are requested and approval is mandatory for how to get green card.  USCIS processing times are in constant flux but generally run from 6 – 9 months.  Premium processing is available for the EB1 category and that can shorten the processing times down to 15 days or less.  In fact, when filing through premium processing, many of our approvals come in less than 1 week.

The second part of how to get a green card is Form I-485 if you are present in the United States or consular processing if you are not.  In order to find out if you can file Form I-485 or begin consular processing, you must consult the visa bulletin which governs immigrant visa availability.  It is a bit tricky to read but vital to understanding how to get a green card.

Employment basedAll Chargeability
Areas Except
Those Listed
CHINA-
mainland
born
EL SALVADOR
GUATEMALA
HONDURAS
INDIAMEXICOPHILIPPINES
1stCCCCCC
2ndC15JUL12C01NOV07CC
3rd01JUL1615APR1301JUL1608MAR0501JUL1601APR11
Other Workers01JUL1601SEP0501JUL1608MAR0501JUL1601APR11
4thCC15JUL15CCC
Certain Religious WorkersCC15JUL15CCC
5th
Non-Regional
Center
(C5 and T5)
C08MAR14CCCC
5th
Regional
Center
(I5 and R5)
C08MAR14CCCC

The visa bulletin provided is the November 2016 visa bulletin and it shows that the EB1 category is current for all applicants.  Therefore the processing times are calculated simply by reviewing posted USCIS processing times which right now would be 6 – 9 months for Form I-140 and 7 months for Form I-485.  Concurrent filing or premium processing can reduce these wait times somewhat.

How to Get a Green Card Through the EB2 Category

The EB2 category also two subcategories.  There is the normal EB2 process which requires PERM labor certification and employer sponsorship and there is the self sponsored NIW category which does not require PERM not does it require employer sponsorship.  The EB2 category is limited to foreign nationals who have advanced degrees or their equivalent.  The NIW or National Interest Waiver also requires an advance degree or equivalent but in order to waive the employer sponsorship requirement, the applicant must prove that they have made significant achievements in their field that demonstrate they are more accomplished than their peers.  Again, processing times for the I-140 are currently 6 – 9 months and 7 months for the I-485 but you also need to add in time to process the PERM for regular EB2 which ranges from 6 – 12 months.  Also, the visa bulletin is not current for people born in China or India.

In order to determine how long it will take regarding how to get a green card, we’ll need to review the rules.  When an application is filed with USCIS, a “priority date” is established.  So let’s say your I-140 was filed to sponsor you on November 1, 2016.  This sets your priority date as 11/01/16.  If you were born in China or India then we see that immigrant visas are available for those with priority dates established on July 12, 2012 for China and November 01, 2007 for India.  These dates give us an estimate how the time it will take for you regarding how to get a green card.  Assuming your priority date is set for November 1, 2016, we then calculate the time difference between that date and the date posted in the visa bulletin.  For EB2 China that is about 4 years and 3 months.  For EB2 India that is about 9 years.  So we take the current USCIS processing times for the I-140 which are about 6 – 9 months and on the extra wait time for the visa bulletin to get about 5 years for China and 9 and a half years for India.  Pretty slow isn’t it?  But it gets worse!  You generally cannot wait in the US for your case to be processed unless you have a valid nonimmigrant work visa or family visa to be in the country.  The good news is that once your I-140 is approved, you can extend your H1B visa beyond the normal six year maximum and your spouse may be eligible for an EAD.  Premium processing is available for the regular EB2 I-140 but not for the NIW.

How to Get a Green Card Through the EB3 Category

The next preference category for how to get a green card is EB3. EB3 has two subcategories but the differences aren’t worth discussing.  Basically EB3 is for everyone who has an employer to sponsor them and can’t qualify for something better such as EB1 or EB2.  Again, processing times for the PERM is about 6 – 12 months, the I-140 is currently 6 – 9 months, and I-485 is about 7 months.  However, the visa bulletin is not current for anyone so there will be some additional wait time which will vary depending on where you were born.  Premium processing is available for the I-140.

How to Get a Green Card Through the EB4 Category

A faster option which is not available to most applicants is the category for the EB4 Religious Green Card.  This category is for religious workers, typically in the US in R1 visa status, who have worked for their petitioning employer for two years.  EB4 petitions are made on Form I-360 and current processing times are around 9 months.  Premium processing is unavailable and no concurrent filing is allowed but the visa bulletin is current for almost everyone.

How to Get a Green Card Through the EB5 Category

The last category is for EB5 investors.  The investment green card requires a large investment of $500,000 or more.  You’d think making such a substantial investment would result in quick processing but you’d be wrong.  Current processing times for EB5 petitions, made on Form I-526, are roughly 16 months!  But it doesn’t end there, once your I-526 and I-485 are both approved, you are only entitled to conditional permanent residency which is a two year green card.  During this two year period, you must follow through with your investment plans and petition to remove the conditions on your green card on Form I-829 which takes around 2 years to earn your permanent residency.